Friday, August 24, 2007

AT&T asks judge for injunction, right to use logos

BRISTOL, Tenn. - As expected, AT&T has asked U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob to issue another injunction to allow its logos on the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing car.

The motion was filed in the Atlanta court Friday afternoon. A hearing isn't expected until the week of Sept. 10 at the earliest.

Shoob granted AT&T's injunction request May 18 on breach-of-contract grounds, but the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision Aug. 13.

Now AT&T is asking for another injunction on the basis of other legal arguments, focusing on the theory that a company has been the victim of an injustice by the promises of another company.

At issue is a June 2003 meeting between NASCAR and Cingular officials concerning Nextel becoming the primary sponsor of the Cup Series in 2004.

AT&T and Cingular were involved in a merger in December 2006, and NASCAR will not allow AT&T's logo on the Jeff Burton car.

"NASCAR promised that [AT&T] could continue to sponsor the #31 Car; NASCAR should have - and, indeed, did - expect [AT&T] to rely on that promise by continuing to invest in NASCAR racing; [AT&T] in fact relied on that promise by continuing to pour millions into the sport," AT&T states in its brief for the injunction.

AT&T says that Cingular/AT&T have spent more than $150 million in the sport since becoming a team sponsor in 2001. It alleges that it wouldn't have done so if it was not persuaded that it could remain a sponsor.

The company argues that it relied on the 2003 meeting because it wanted to know how it would be limited in its ability to leverage its sponsorship with Nextel as the series sponsor.

"In its June 2003 meeting with Plaintiff%22">Plaintiff (AT&T), NASCAR provided precisely such reassurance by telling Plaintiff it should 'TRUST US' and committing to Plaintiff that, notwithstanding NASCAR's discretion over the sport, [and] Plaintiff's sponsorship relationship with RCR would not be compromised by the exclusivity NASCAR otherwise granted to Nextel," AT&T states. "Having made that commitment, NASCAR cannot now rely on the existence of such discretion to force Plaintiff from the sport by foreclosing it from featuring its current name on the #31 car."

NASCAR officials have testified that Cingular knew it couldn't change names. The sanctioning body had not allowed Cingular parent SBC to be on a car in 2003 and has denied other paint schemes featuring other logos that are not connected to Cingular.

AT&T also argues that Cingular was not acquired by a third party but it is just changing the name after the merger of BellSouth and AT&T. BellSouth had owned 40 percent of Cingular. AT&T had merged in 2005 with SBC, which owned 60 percent of Cingular (which, by the way, had bought AT&T Wireless in 2004).

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